Monday, October 07, 2013


My old pal Kevin has turned me onto Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States.  Three episodes into the series and I'm hooked.  It's an extraordinarily well done documentary show with tons of really cool old footage, and it starts with World War II.  Hard to go wrong with WWII.

Stone is, of course, coming from a decidedly left-wing point of view, but he argues persuasively, and makes some rather astonishing but well supported assertions. 

One is that Harry Truman was essentially a racist simpleton from the sticks who had virtually no appreciation of the nuances of international diplomacy, and that he trusted advisors from FDR's administration who were of the same "my way or the highway" mindset, while distancing himself from advisors who appeared to understand that Stalin and the Russians had no desire to take over the world.

When the bewildered new President first met the Soviet ambassador to the US, the corn-fed yokel of a chief executive dressed him down like a seventh grade football player who can't cover his gap.  Thus began the Cold War.  Even though it may very well not have happened at all had FDR lived, or had Henry Wallace remained VP.

Another assertion Stone makes is that using the bomb on Japan was ENTIRELY unnecessary.  The US had already been unleashing the same kind of devastation on Japanese cities for some time at that point, albeit using conventional weapons, lots of planes and bombs, instead of simply using one plane and one bomb.  So Hiroshima and Nagasaki were just another couple of devastated cities among several.  Not enough to surrender unconditionally. 

Instead, it was the Soviet invasion of Japanese occupied Manchuria, which happened at the same time we dropped the bomb, that truly freaked out the Japanese high command.  Without Manchuria, Japan had no resources, and without resources, there was no way to continue fighting.  So they surrendered.

Which means the US killed millions of Japanese civilians that it did not need to kill.  On the other hand, like I said, we had already been killing millions of Japanese civilians, anyway, so maybe that makes dropping the bomb a relatively moral act.

Okay, I'm just kidding about the morality: if Stone is right, dropping the bomb ranks up there with slavery and the genocide against the Native American population as major American crimes against humanity.  Anyway, fascinating stuff.

Watch the first three episodes for free here.